A new galactic game launching today lets citizen scientists identify the glowing clouds where future stars will be born. The online experience, called Clouds, is a new addition to the Milky Way Project, where everyone can help astronomers sort and measure our galaxy. Clouds features images and data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important participation from NASA.
In the rapid-fire game, players gauge whether a targeted section of a presented image is a cloud, a "hole" -- an empty region of space -- or something in between. The cataloging of these snapshots of the local cosmos will help astronomers learn more about the architecture and character of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
The organizers of Clouds encourage astronomy enthusiasts to start playing now, because with enough participation, important insights into the Milky Way could come as soon as early next year.
"We're really excited to launch Clouds and see results back from our giant volunteer team of amateur scientists," said Robert Simpson, a postdoctoral researcher in astronomy at Oxford University, England, and principal investigator of the Milky Way Project. "We think the community can blast through all these data fairly quickly. We may even be done by the spring, and that would be an amazing result for citizen science."
To participate in the Clouds experience by looking for infrared clouds and contributing to the Milky Way Project, visit: http://www.milkywayproject.org/clouds .
For more information about Spitzer, visit: http://spitzer.caltech.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer . More information is online at: http://www.herschel.caltech.edu , http://www.nasa.gov/herschel and http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Herschel .